Bold new era for Australian barley breeding

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 19 August, 2013

The University of Adelaide will invest more than $10 million over the next five years in its barley breeding program, promising long-term benefit for farmers with better and faster new varieties. Over time, the University will be looking to strengthen and expand sections of the program with investments from other parties.

The investment – including barley breeding royalties – is the result of constructive negotiations between the University and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) to ensure that the end of the GRDC’s long-term investment in the University’s barley breeding program carries positive benefits to grains growers and to the grains industry more broadly.

“The University’s barley breeding program is the largest and most successful in Australia, and this agreement will help ensure continued delivery of high-performing barley varieties that offer even greater benefits for Australia’s barley growers,” says Waite Research Institute Director and Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, Professor Mike Wilkinson.

“This investment will help us build on current research strengths to bring the latest cutting-edge science into our barley breeding efforts. Our fundamental aim is to achieve step changes in barley variety improvement.”

“Our new barley breeding centre will be more closely linked with our teaching programs with more emphasis on educating the plant breeders and agricultural scientists of the future.”

Since the launch in 1968 of the hugely successful barley Clipper, University of Adelaide-bred varieties have accounted for more than 50% of national barley production.

Barley breeding targets have included each major production and market segment including notable feed varieties Galleon, Barque, Maritime, Fleet and Fathom, as well as leading malting varieties Schooner, Sloop, SloopSA, Flagship, Commander and this year’s new commercial variety Navigator.

Hulless varieties for use in food manufacturing and specialist animal feed applications include Torrens, Macumba and Finniss.

“The University of Adelaide’s barley breeding program is recognised internationally,” says Professor Wilkinson. “With improved breeding technologies and more research, both barley growers and the barley-consuming industry will be winners.”

This week on Harvest: grapevines, nitrogen and food security

This week on Harvest , we’ll be talking to Associate Professor Brent Kaiser from the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine about his research on nitrogen uptake and utilisation in plants as well as the Bachelor of Viticulture and Oenology program in the lead-up to the University’s Open Day

We’ll be continuing our ‘Grape to Glass’ segment by heading a little further up the plant with a look at grapevine physiology, and we’ll also be continuing our look at Food Security when we talk to Dr Andrew Jacobs from the ACPFG about the role that science plays.

We’ll also be having our regular look at some of the agriculture, food and wine stories in the news. Join us from 3.00pm to 4.00pm SA time on 101.5 FM in Adelaide, on digital radio or online at https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/

Podcasts of the interviews will be available after 5.00pm SA time at https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/program/harvest/

Harvest goes live tomorrow!

Coming up on our first ever show, we’ll be talking about food security with A. Prof Wendy Umberger from Global Food Studies (University of Adelaide), we’ll be exploring where a glass of wine starts with grapevine rootstocks and breeding, and we’ll be speaking with Prof Mike Wilkinson, Director of the Waite Research Institute (University of Adelaide), about the big challenges for ag research and what the ‘new’ science of epigenetics can offer agriculture.

We’ll also be having our regular look at some of the agriculture, food and wine stories in the news.

Join us on 101.5 FM in Adelaide, on digital radio or online at http://radio.adelaide.edu.au

Podcasts will ba available of the show after the live broadcast at https://radio.adelaide.edu.au/program/harvest/

New partnership for Radio Adelaide and the University of Adelaide’s Waite Research Institute

Harvest version 3

What we eat and drink, how it’s grown, and how science and innovation can help meet the challenges of food quality and security – this is the focus of Harvest; a new partnership between Radio Adelaide and the University of Adelaide‘s Waite Research Institute.

The radio program will feature research and topical issues related to agriculture, food and wine and will be broadcast on Radio Adelaide from Wednesday the 7th of August each week from 3.00pm-4.00pm South Australian time.

Radio Adelaide’s General Manager Deborah Welch said that the partnership is in line with Radio Adelaide’s long history of supporting life-long learning and using a variety of platforms and technologies. “We deliver an audience of enquiring minds from all walks of life to the University of Adelaide, and by extension to the Waite Campus” she said. “Our listeners are curious people who are looking for more information about their world. They are interested in social issues and influencing decision making. And they like to eat!”

Professor Mike Wilkinson, Director of the Waite Research Institute said that the partnership provides a unique opportunity to engage the community in the issues in food production. “Producing a radio program gives us the opportunity to present our research in a way that is personally relevant to the listener, and by working with Radio Adelaide, we are going to reach a much larger and more diverse audience than we ever could alone. Whether you are from the city or the country, food production, quality and safety is relevant to you.”

For Radio Adelaide journalist Chris Brunner, producing Harvest is unique opportunity. “I’m interested in documentary-style radio and current affairs, and there are so many stories to tell about the work at the Waite and how it relates to the bigger agriculture, food and wine landscape” he said. “And to be able to have so many key people in one place is a journalist’s dream.”

The Waite Research Institute’s Public Engagement Officer, Dr Heather Bray will co-produce and co-host the program. “Agriculture is exciting, diverse and personal – its science you can eat. As a science communicator, I’m really looking forward to working with a journalist to present agricultural science stories in a personally relevant and engaging way.”

In addition to the program’s live audience in Adelaide, people will be able to listen to the program from all over Australia either via Radio Adelaide’s live stream or podcasts at radio.adelaide.edu.au/program/harvest. Podcasts will also be available through iTunes.

Harvest will also use Twitter and Facebook to interact with the audience. Links to podcasts will also be shared here on the Waite Research Institute’s blog as well as the WRI Twitter channel and Facebook page.

 

Waite campus drives Vineyard of the Future

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Monday, 29 July, 2013

grapes lo res

University of Adelaide wine researchers are leading an international project to develop and test new tools and technologies to help the viticulture industry protect their vineyards from climate change.

The researchers, in a project called Vineyard of the Future, are establishing a futuristic vineyard at the University’s Waite Campus as a testing ground for new and emerging technologies that will help grapegrowers adapt to climate change and introduce efficiencies.

“The viticulture industry is vulnerable to climate change because of grapevines’ high sensitivity to temperature and rainfall,” says project leader Professor Steve Tyerman, from the University’s Waite Research Institute. “To successfully adapt, the industry needs better management systems that will allow rapid response to climatic events and other risks.”

The one hectare vineyard at Waite Campus has a system of continuous remote monitoring with a combination of sensors and image analysis enabling around-the-clock measuring of vine performance under changing conditions.

“We need a complete picture of how the vine is responding to climate variables and soil conditions at any particular time,” says Professor Tyerman.

The technology will also help the industry become more efficient.

“Grapegrowers are facing costs pressures,” he says. “We want to show how it is possible to cut costs and save on labour using modern sensors and imaging.”

The Vineyard of the Future is led by Professor Tyerman, working with Dr Roberta De Bei, postdoctoral fellow in the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, and with collaborators Dr Sigfredo Fuentes, University of Melbourne, and others in Chile, Spain, France and the United States.

Some of the tested technologies and techniques will soon be available for growers to monitor their own vineyards for changes in canopy growth and form, and plant water status.

Tools include a wetting pattern analyser to help better target irrigation and fertiliser use; infrared thermography and automated analysis to assess plant water status; and canopy assessment using cover photography.

“Some of the systems we’ve developed are now being tested in commercial vineyards in Australia and Chile,” says Professor Tyerman. “When we talk of Vineyard of the Future, the future may not be far away at all.”

Getting a good look at the Waite Campus

This story was orginally posted in News from the University of Adelaide, Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Visitors to the University of Adelaide’s Waite Campus will have the opportunity for a unique view of the campus as part of a Waite Information Day on Sunday 21 July.

A limited number of free helicopter rides over the campus are being offered along with information talks, tours of teaching and research facilities and hands-on activities.

The University’s School of Agriculture, Food and Wine is based at the Waite Campus at Urrbrae and offers three undergraduate degrees: Agricultural Sciences, Viticulture and Oenology, and Food and Nutrition Science.

On Sunday 21 July, there will be two information sessions – at 10am and 1pm. Prospective students and their parents will have an opportunity to speak with academic staff and current students about specific areas of study, the nature of the degrees and career opportunities.

Campus tours include the Plant Accelerator, the Wine Science Laboratory and the Sensory Evaluation teaching laboratories and visitors can take part in hands-on learning experiences such as simple laboratory analyses and sensory evaluation.

Head of the School of Agriculture, Food and Wine Professor Mike Wilkinson says: There are tremendous opportunities for careers in these fields and our graduates are in great demand.

“We encourage all those interested to come and hear from academic staff about what the degrees cover and where they may lead and to see the fantastic facilities and learning environment of the Waite Campus. It will be an enjoyable day with plenty to see and do.”

All those wishing to attend need to register at https://agwine.adelaide.edu.au/news_events/infosessions/. The five minute helicopter tours will be subject to weather conditions and are only open to those who register early

 

Debate @ the Waite in the City … on soils

“Australian soils are more fertile now than they’ve ever been”

Our understanding of the soil has changed dramatically over the last 150 years, from ‘ground-up rock’ to a dynamic, living ecosystem.

Soils contribute significantly to Australia’s food and fibre production, worth $23.6 billion, in 2009-2010, as well as supporting the economic growth of rural and regional communities. An estimated 63% of the Australian landscape is managed under agriculture or forestry. Food production on Australian soils provides 93%of our domestic food supply and feeds another 40 million people outside Australia every day.

Soil fertility refers to the physical, chemical and biological attributes of the soil which affect the availability of nutrients for plants to use. Soil fertility is lost when more nutrients leave the soil than are added to it, as well as through processes such as erosion and salinity. The impact of European land use on Australian soils was extreme, with severe erosion, organic matter loss and nutrient depletion commonplace across large areas.

We now know that the way we’ve managed our fragile Australian soils in the past was unsustainable at best, and at worst, caused permanent infertility and lost production potential. However, with increasing knowledge we have improved our farming practices to maintain, and in some areas increase soil fertility. For instance, conventional cultivation, where ploughing the soil is the main method of managing crop residue and controlling weeds, was reduced to 1.4% of the area used to grow crops in 2011.

So have we learned to manage our soils sustainably? Or did we learn the lesson too late and have permanently limited our productivity?

In this debate, moderated by Dr Paul Willis, Director of the RiAus, we will explore these issues as six experts in two teams argue for your vote.

Team for the Affirmative
Associate Professor Ann McNeill
Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Nigel Wilhelm
Research Leader, Farming Systems, SARDI
Professor Rob Fitzpatrick
Professorial Research Fellow & Director, Acid Sulfate Soil Centre, The University of Adelaide

Team for the Negative
Dr Patrick O’Connor
Visiting Research Fellow, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Dr Ashlea Doolette
Research Fellow, Soils Research Group, School of Agriculture, Food and Wine, The University of Adelaide
Mr Richard MacEwan
Senior Research Scientist, Department of Environment & Primary Industries, Victoria

When: Thursday 11 July, 2013 6.00 – 8.30pm
Where: RiAus, The Science Exchange, 55 Exchange Place, Adelaide. Finger food provided and cash bar available

Admission is free, but prior registration is essential as seats are strictly limited.
Live-streaming of the event will be available from 6.30 pm CST.
To follow the debate on Twitter use #agchatoz and follow @waiteresearch and @RiAus